Elected Officials Compensation

Elected Officials’ Health Benefits
Position: I Will Decline The Health Benefits

The City of Pinole is struggling to make ends meet.
We are all well aware of that.
The City has downsized staff and we have been told that all city employees have made considerable compensation concessions.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012
It appears as if the City Council passed a resolution in 1995 approving medical benefits for elected officials. This resolution was signed by, Alegria, Boyle, Bradshaw, Horton & Murray. There is no contract with CalPERS for elected officials health benefits, these benefits were implemented through a resolution.
Resolution 3135, adopted by the City Council on May 1, 1995, approving medical
coverage for active elected officials.
“Elected Officials who are active and retired employees and survivors of the agency, the benefit of the Act, and to accept the liabilities and obligations of an employer under the Act and Regulations; now, therefore, be it
Resolved, that the Public Body elect, and it does hereby elect, to be subject to the provisions of the Act, and be it further Resolved, That the employer’s contribution for each employee or annuitant shall be the amount necessary to pay for the full amount necessary to pay the full cost of his/her enrollment, including the enrollment of family members, in a health benefits plan or plans up to a maximum of 360 48.”

Wednesday, October 10, 2012
During last night’s debate a member of the public asked about Health benefits for elected officials. Peter Murray stated that he has accepted the in-lieu payments starting 6 years ago. Roy Swearingen indicated that this subject that will be on a future agenda.
I had requested from the City, a copy of the CalPERS Health contract that defines the health benefit allowance for elected officials.
I received the following email from Patti Athenour, Pinole City Clerk,  moments before the debate started:

“Hello Ivette:

I wanted to let you know that the City does not have a document which specifically addresses health benefits for elected officials, such as the contract and amendments I sent you previously. The PERS contracts do not seem to be the mechanism for that benefit. We have placed a call to Cal PERS for further information to attempt to respond to your inquiry. I will, of course, provide you anything that we receive once they address our request.”

I asked to see the CalPERS Health contract which had been referenced during the June 12, 2012 council meeting.
The following is taken from Council Agenda Packet Dated June 12, 2012

Question from Mayor Pro Tem Long:
Can the City modify the health insurance contract with CalPERS to exclude City Council members? If so, could that apply to current Council members or only future?
Answer:
According to CalPERS, the answer is yes, City Council members can be excluded from CalPERS Health but only for future councilmembers since we already have a contract to include our councilmembers. Therefore, our current members cannot be excluded from coverage. Our resolution/contract has identified “elected members” and therefore it would take another resolution to state that futureelected councilmembers are exempted from CalPERS Health coverage.

The Contra Costa Grand Jury Report which outlined several Pension Reform Possibilities was responded to by the City Manager and Council on August 21, 2012. However no response has yet been offered for the Grand Jury Report #1104, regarding elected officials health benefits.

What have our elected officials done to reduce their compensation?
The Council has reduced its monthly salary from $300 to $250.
They are no longer being reimbursed for out-of-pocket expenses in the course of their duties as public servants.

The salary for six elected officials (council and treasurer) is $18,000 per year.
But the payment of health benefits and in-lieu payments are worth further discussion. It is a question recently raised by members of the public.
 
The budget for 2012-2013 shows the total cost for our six elected officials, salaries and benefits to be $86,352.00
Salaries for the council, $15,000.
Salary for city treasurer, $3,000
Benefits for the City Council total $59,078.
Benefits for the City Treasurer, $7,000 (approximate)
In Lieu payments to elected officials totalled (approximate) $28,000.

Pinole has been generous when it comes to the benefits our elected officials receive. The Contra Costa Grand Jury report makes that clear.
Pleasant Hill has revised their health insurance benefits to their elected officials.
Some elected officials have voluntarily given up their benefits, such as Councilmember Dan Helix in Concord.

Responses to the grand jury report varied. For example, Concord did not make any changes to council compensation. But, after laying off about a third of the workforce and implementing furloughs, in July 2011, the Hercules City Council eliminated health, dental and life insurance for council members.

I will decline the City’s Health Benefits.

I am retired, I have a limited income.
I receive Medicare and Social Security.
I don’t receive a pension.
I have a limited income but unlimited passion and time to devote to Pinole.
If there is no option, at this time, but to accept health benefits or in-lieu payment I will decline the health benefits and donate the in-lieu payments to important community assets in need, such as the Save the Swim Center, the Senior Center, Youth Foundation and PCTV.

What does the law say about changing the salary and benefits of elected official in Pinole?
Government Code Section 36516  allows for salaries of council members to be increased by the adoption of an ordinance or the passage of a ballot measure.
Each member of the City Council receives their compensation based on the population of the city. Section 36516(a) provides that a city with a population up to 35,000 may compensate their council members up to $300 a month. Since Pinole’s population is 18,939 its council members fall into this category.

The following is taken from Council Agenda Packet Dated June 12, 2012
Question from Mayor Pro Tem Long:
Can the City modify the health insurance contract with CalPERS to exclude City Council members? If so, could that apply to current Council members or only future?
Answer:
According to CalPERS, the answer is yes, City Council members can be excluded from CalPERS Health but only for future councilmembers since we already have a contract to include our councilmembers. Therefore, our current members cannot be excluded from coverage. Our resolution/contract has identified “elected members” and therefore it would take another resolution to state that futureelected councilmembers are exempted from CalPERS Health coverage.

Question from Mayor Pro Tem Long:
Could the Council’s compensation be amended/increased to cover incidental expenses such as mileage, if the health benefits are eliminated?
Answer:
As mentioned above, health coverage cannot be eliminated. The City Council’s compensation is set for by State statute.

Let’s pass that resolution and/or amend the contract.
If Pleasant Hill was able to do it, if Hercules was able to do it, we should be able to do it as well. Let’s do the right thing.

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